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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 18

Know what to look for in an SEM specialist — and the questions that’ll help determine if they’re right for you.

Here you’ll find:

  • Key traits an ideal SEM specialist should possess
  • Questions to ask a potential specialist
  • Tips for selecting the right candidates
  • Expert insights from industry pros

You’ve asked around, browsed reviews, narrowed down your list of candidates, and checked it twice. Now, what’s next? How can you figure out which search engine marketing (SEM) specialist is right for you?

We’re glad you asked.

Since SEM is an integral part of any solid digital marketing strategy, the demand for top-notch experts is high. This demand produces such a high supply that choosing the right person for the job can be overwhelming.

Let’s go over the nine traits to look for in an ideal (or nearly so) SEM expert for your company.

hawksem: sem specialist

Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they should have a good understanding of what quality content is and how it works. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Experience in your niche

Sure, it’s obvious that an SEM specialist must be experienced. But how do you determine if their experience is a match for your particular company? Oftentimes, brands don’t know what to look for in their candidate’s experience. This can leave you out of the loop and in the dark in your marketing partnership.

Experienced specialists understand that each business needs a unique approach to SEM. That means that no two strategies will be exactly alike. While most qualified SEM experts can set up a strategy for any niche, the process is much faster if they’ve worked with businesses similar to yours in the past.

Questions to ask:

2. Ability to speak the truth

Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science — there’s an art to it as well. That’s why an experienced SEM specialist probably won’t offer you any guarantees. If a candidate promises to get your website to the top pages of search engine results in a week or even a month, that’s a red flag.

A trustworthy SEM expert won’t give you exact dates, either. Instead, they’re more likely to lay out the rough scope of work that needs to be done to achieve results in the nearest future.

Questions to ask:

  • How long will it take you to get my website on the first page of Google? (Trick question!)
  • Were you able to get your previous clients’ websites to the first page of Google?
  • How much approximate traffic can I get in one week/month/year?

Pro tip: Generally, SEM campaigns take at least three months to start showing solid results.

3. Fine writing skills

Content marketing is an integral part of SEM efforts. Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they should have a good understanding of what quality content is and how it works.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you offer content writing services?
  • Can I see successful content pieces you created for previous clients?

4. Flexibility

You already know that SEM isn’t an exact science. It’s also highly volatile. What works perfectly today could blow up in your face tomorrow (thanks, algorithm!). 

Unless you follow the latest trends and adjust to new requirements on the go, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the competition. Experienced SEM specialists know how that works. That’s why they prioritize staying on top of the latest and greatest industry updates and news.

Questions to ask:

5. Stellar organization practices

An SEM specialist’s work is never done. Once you launch a campaign, it’s all about monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing.

Without knowing how to judge, prioritize, and delegate, an SEM expert can’t survive. That’s why you want someone who knows how to think creatively and make independent decisions.

Questions to ask:

  • How many other experts do you work with?
  • How often do you report on your work?
  • Will there be a person designated specifically to work on my project?
hawksem: find an sem specialist

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Excellent communication skills

Communication skills are one of the top traits you should be evaluating when hiring an SEM specialist. These experts have to work with many other strategists, such as SEO experts, content managers, designers, and more. 

A lack of communication, particularly up front, can lead to misaligned expectations (or worse). If you aren’t happy with their communication skills during an interview, they’re not likely going to improve once you partner with them.

Questions to ask:

  • How many specialists are on your team?
  • What are your top methods for staying in touch with a client?
  • How do you report a mistake?

7. Technical knowledge

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. They should know the ins and outs of Google Ads and related platforms that help launch campaigns, offer insight, and provide data.

Questions to ask:

  • What platforms do you use when conducting SEM?
  • Do you know JavaScript?
  • How do you create or obtain graphics and imagery?

Pro tip: Speaking of SEM technicalities, you want to find someone who can handle multiple mediums (such as Google, Microsoft Ads, and AdRoll), and understands where your industry generally performs best.

8. Passion for the field

The best SEM experts are passionate about their job. When you’re asking questions about their plans for your company or previous clients, look for passion or excitement in their voices.

Search engine marketing is a creative process. Without passion and inspiration, it’s often tough to achieve desirable results.

Questions to ask:

  • What are your favorite SEM tricks?
  • What was the most amazing breakthrough you ever achieved with SEM?

9. A dose of curiosity

To stay on top of their game, SEM experts must be curious and ready to ask questions. SEM is a joint effort. If the specialist doesn’t ask the right questions throughout the process, you may not get what you want.

Your potential SEM partner should be curious about the way your company works and always look for new ways to improve it.

Question to ask:

  • What questions do you have for me?

The takeaway

With so many SEM candidates vying for your attention, it could be tough to choose the perfect partner. By focusing on their behavior and asking the right questions, you’ll be in a position to pinpoint the ideal search engine marketing specialist after a couple of interviews.

Now that you know what to look for, an efficient partnership could be right around the corner.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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